Sometime, somewhere, professional wrestling went horribly wrong. And the people who witnessed the World Wrestling Federation's Smackdown! at Kemper Arena last week know exactly what I'm talking about. Attending the professional wrestling event was like sitting in the studio audience of a bad sitcom. A four-hour taping of a bad sitcom. "The Geena Davis Show" comes to mind.
You see, the event I saw was not intended to be viewed by a live TV audience. That meant the WWF chose to sacrifice the Tuesday evening of the thousands in attendance and make this the slowest-moving piece of theater since "Girl, Interrupted."
At one point, there was a 30-minute break between matches. Thirty minutes! I don't know if the man-monsters backstage were still orchestrating what would occur during the match or if they just were caught up in their game of poker, but those in attendance sat around and stared at each other like goldfish waiting to be fed. I really didn't think it was in my best interest to bring a book to an event like this, but before long, I found myself memorizing the seating chart of Kemper Arena.
Fellowship of the ring
As the night grew longer and longer, the natives grew restless. The violence in the ring must have somehow been infectious when coupled with the mass quantities of alcohol consumed by the fans. In the last two hours of the event, a break in the action on-stage meant that the action would move into the stands. By the time a defeated wrestler limped out of view, the drunk wrestling fans decided to, as "The Rock" might say, "lay the smack down" on each other.
The security guards quickly took on the role of most-underpaid people in attendance. Their jobs went from silently observing professional wrestling to stopping amateur drunken brawling in the stands.
You know the sad thing? I really appreciated the drunken brawlers, because darn it, there wasn't anything else going on. Watching the entire crowd slowly turn its attention to one particular area of the arena, and then subsequently surveying the security guards try to make their way through the crowd to break up the mess, was a much needed break from the boredom of the first two hours. In a way, these drunk jerks were actually martyrs, sacrificing their seat inside the arena for the amusement of the fans.
The good old days
The first big sporting event I ever attended as a kid was a professional wrestling match. I know, pro wrestling is hardly a sport, but in some way, it is a sporting event. I'm sad to say that it was a lot better back when I was the 6-year-old kid about to throw up because the crowd overwhelmed me than it was this past time.
I don't know when wrestling became so rotten. Don't tell me it's a growing-up-and-realizing-it's-fake thing, because I still get a kick out of Santa Claus and George W. Bush.
At one point in my life I decided to take a 10-year break from watching wrestling. But a decade ago, it was actually pretty good. Remember those days? When NBC would bump "Saturday Night Live" to show "Saturday Night Main Event?" When Hulk Hogan would become triumphant only after the millions and millions of Hulkamaniacs across the nation would get in his corner? When a steel cage match actually meant something? I still remember my cousin breaking down in tears when the reception of "Wrestlemania II" was so poor we were forced to give up on watching it.
I've got a six-hour video tape of the old greats. Guys like Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Andre the Giant and the Ultimate Warrior. I've even got that episode when Randy "Macho Man" Savage flew over the top rope and accidentally knocked the lovely Miss Elizabeth unconscious. Classic.
But now, they've got guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin, a character who flips off anyone in spandex and anyone in the crowd. After a victory, he celebrates by chugging as much beer as he can for the crowd's amusement.
It's like a frat party on illegal steroids.
Here are the two highlights from the wrestling event: "Lita" gets knocked out in the corner of the ring and a 400-plus pound wrestler named "Rikishi," who wears what is basically huge thong underwear to the ring, rubs his enormous butt all over Lita's face. This move is called the "stink-face."
The other highlight occurred backstage, but it was put on the huge television screen for our enjoyment. Two women scrap it out over one dating the other's father, and the fight ends when the one woman gets her face rubbed in cow manure and a bucket of brown sludge dumped on her head. This would be mediocre comedy even if it were on "The Tom Green Show." Sadly, I now realize that professional wrestling has gone the same route as MTV, and left its charm in the late 1980s.